From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 6, Number 52 - March 22, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Richardson property turned down for rezoning

by Joy Ufford

After turning down two rezoning requests for proposed subdivisions cited as too dense for their out-of-town locations, the Sublette County Planning and Zoning Board at last Wednesday’s meeting recommended against a rezoning application to provide 263 residential units less than a mile south of town.

The Old Brazzill Phases V and VII proposal, containing 348.11 acres, was touted as an opportunity for affordable housing during an informational presentation to the Pinedale Town Council the week before.

Affordable housing, water and sewer, highway access, property values and irrigation rights topped comments and questions from both the crowd and the board.

Last week’s planning and zoning board agenda was separated into two sessions, Wednesday and Thursday nights, to accommodate the number of rezoning applications on hand for consideration.

Rio Verde engineers Aaron Seehafer and Mark Eatinger made the presentation of Old Brazzill Ranch’s Phases V and VII on behalf of developer Cecilia Richardson of Richardson Development, Inc. The property is located about 3,000 feet south of Pinedale town limits on the east side of Highway 191 and one-half south of Pole Creek Road.

The property originally had been zoned on the Old Brazzill master plan as having lots ranging in size from two to 10 acres. Wednesday’s application was to change zoning from agricultural (A1) to rural residential with 6,000-square-foot lots (RR 6,000), a move questioned for its legality by numerous landowners in the original Old Brazzill subdivision.

Notice was given Wednesday night that Town of Pinedale attorney Ed Wood concluded Phases V and VII are not part of the existing Old Brazzill development so the property in question is not encumbered by that subdivision’s CCRs.

Seehafer told the board that in the early 1970s the property was zoned high-density rural-residential until 2001 when it reverted back to A1.

“It’s always been kind of slated for a higher-density area,” he said.

Seehafer said the new subdivision will contain 190 acres of open space bordering the current Old Brazzill subdivision to the south with multiple-family townhome units near the highway, single-family lots to the east and a small light-commercial section at the middle.

The 8.79-acre commercial could hold a deli, bakery, market, day care, light retail, offices, art gallery, bank or church to reduce traffic out of the subdivisions and could be reached easily by walking, he explained.

The developer seeks the proposed subdivision’s annexation to the Town of Pinedale and has permission from the Town Council to tie into its water and sewer lines. Thus, they have tried to follow Pinedale’s comprehensive plan, according to Seehafer.

Dense, near town limits

“I’ve heard that numerous times tonight, ‘why don’t you put higher density close to town,’” Seehafer said. “Well, here it is ... 3,000 feet from town limits. Since the town’s encouraging us to do high-density, that’s what we’re doing.”

Eatinger then addressed the board on the issue.

“We’ve been through two zoning-change requests and everybody says they should be closer to town,” he said. “Development of RR-6,000 was to prepare a subdivision that wants annexation… and they do.”

Taking the development as a whole, including parks, pathways and open space, the average lot size will be about an acre and a half, Eatinger said.

Still, a petition signed by more than 80 residents living close to the proposed subdivision was brought to the meeting and read as their public comment.

Affordable housing

As for “affordable housing,” Eatinger said he believes that the recent discussions with town and county officials might be the first time the need has been discussed.

“We haven’t gotten very far but the seeds have been planted,” he said. “The estimated infrastructure cost-per-lot will be about $50,000 each.”

Planning Commissioner Bart Meyers pointed out that county commissioners are not ready to require affordable housing from developers but said “if a developer did propose affordable housing and offer that up certainly the commissioners would try to be interested.”

Chair Albert Sommers asked Eatinger why the affordable housing component isn’t written into the development plan yet.

“It has been touted from the beginning there would be an affordable housing component with this, yet it is very nebulous with this as to what it is,” he said.

Eatinger said an affordable-housing commitment isn’t required and prices will depend on real costs to develop each lot.

“Providing some (lots) at cost is about as affordable as I can say,” he said.

Water rights

The Hicks family, which owns five acres beside the proposed subdivision, had quarrels with landowner Cecilia Richardson last summer over water rights and it appears the matter is headed for court.

Eatinger explained to the board that the Hicks don’t have a dedicated water ditch and rely on wastewater coming from Richardson’s property. He said it could be a “viable” option to use a pump to irrigate the Hicks’ hay field from Richardson’s pond, and that that additional “use” for the pond could be granted.

Heidi Hicks Wilson stood up and said the only way to provide affordable housing is to create “slow, steady growth” and then related her family’s conflict with Richardson over water last summer.

Wilson said Richardson, who had padlocked a head gate, was told last July that she had to supply water or face injunctions.

“She’s had since last July,” Hicks said. “She went to the Town of Pinedale under false pretenses that the water rights did not exist.”

Wilson said the family is going to court for their water.

“We can’t fix that right now, because that is where the water issue will be decided,” she said.

Old Brazzill master plan

Steve Roberts, who owns a home in the original Old Brazzill subdivision, said it was with the developers’ master plan that he sold most of those lots, as an employee of Cecilia and the late Jack Richardson.

“I didn’t promise this,” Roberts said. “People should get what they’re sold. I did buy a concept – twos, threes, fives and 10s (acres per lot).”

Several Old Brazzill landowners brought along the master plan copies given to them when they looked at lots in the original subdivision.

“I like to deal on a handshake or word, and that’s what I was counting on when I bought,” Levi Lozier said.

Richardson said Roberts did work with them for 15 years but that he himself drew up proposals to subdivide Phases V and VII with much higher density than the original master plan provided.

Roberts refuted that, saying he never did any work that wasn’t requested by Jack Richardson.

Board comments, votes

Board member Judi Adler began the discussion,

“I hardly know where to begin,” she said. “I can tell there are a lot of hard feelings here.”

She said the main concern was to determine whether the land was appropriate for the requested zoning change and that other questions about the subdivision could be answered at the preliminary plat stage.

While she did say development should be closer to town, it was a “misfortune” that high-density development needs to be close to town.

“I have to say this is where high-density should be, because that’s where we can put in sewer and water,” Adler said. “I also understand that no one wants it … but it’s going to be somewhere.”

Board member Jay Anderson noted that the meeting brought up “various competing issues articulated with … civility.”

“This is a big deal,” he said. “This really determines where we want to go as a community…. I don’t know where to run with this thing.”

Sommers said he supports high-density development near town, but that “doesn’t mean every parcel is ready (for development) all the time, every time.”

“It’s obvious nobody in this county wants development anywhere near them,” he said.

He added there is “no question” this subdivision would affect neighboring property values, which he said is part of the problem.

“They’re so high nobody can live here,” he said.

Sommers said affordable housing is needed but that he hadn’t seen anything in this proposal that would provide it.

“If I thought 20 percent of those units were actually going to be affordable, I’d change my mind,” he said.

Board member Suzy Michnevich said the water-right question should be settled first. As for affordable housing, she said her perception of that is “what a single teacher could afford to live in. And if it can’t be provided, it can’t be affordable housing.”

Michnevich also said “this is not the right place and right time for this property to be that dense.”

Board member Carmel Kail pointed out that if filled up the subdivision’s population would equal 10 percent of the county’s population. She said it was “inappropriate to make a zone change” without an actual desire from the town to annex the property.

The board voted to recommend denial of the application, except Adler, who voted to approve it.

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